Last week the Booker Prize 2013 longlist came out. I feel there are two camps around the Booker – those who like the books they chose and those that refuse to read anything on their list. How about you?
I tend to fall in the “seek out” camp. This year three debut novels made it on to the list. Two of them have yet to publish in the US.
Eve Harris was listed for The Marrying of Chani Kaufman. It’s a story about a young orthodox Jewish woman in London, her arranged marriage and how she learns to be a Jewish wife. This book comes out in the US in September.
Donal Ryan was listed for The Spinning Heart, a story of a struggling Irish town after the Irish economy collapsed. Ryan is one of three Irish authors on the list (joined by Colm Toibin and Colum McCann). This book is particularly noteworthy as Ryan was rejected by 47 publishers before he found a home for his book. That is tenacity! As far as I can tell, it’s not coming out in the US until next year.
I noted that Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home made it onto the NYT Trade Paperback best-seller list this week. I reviewed this book back in January and am happy to see it doing well in paperback.
And here at Proto Libro, in August I will reviewing two debut novels: Courtney Angela Brkic’s The First Rule of Swimming and Susan Nussbaum’s Good Kings, Bad Kings.
Jane Elbus is a teenage girl living in Westchester in the 1980s when her favorite uncle, Finn, a visual artist, dies of AIDS. Alienated from her older sister Greta, and distanced from her accountant parents, who are swamped with tax season, Jane strikes up a friendship with Finn’s ex, Toby, a man she never met while Finn was alive, because her parents think Toby “murdered” her uncle by giving Finn AIDS. The story begins right before Finn’s death. He was an accomplished artist who never made as much of his talent as he could. His final painting is a portrait of Jane and Greta, and the portrait becomes a character in the story, as it joins the Elbus family after Finn’s passing.
Brunt is adept at capturing the angst of awkward 14-year old June and her alienation from her talented sister, who has the lead in the school production of South Pacific and is under consideration for a professional role in Annie. The plot of the story twists and turns in pleasing and unexpected ways. You could call this a sisters, or mother – daughter story, but at the same time Brunt explores the affects of AIDS on life in the 1980s and the role of art in families. Just as June is not as talented a performer as her sister, as the story unfolds it is revealed that her mother, the accountant, although not as talented as her brother Finn, also has artistic gifts.
I picked up this book from the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers shelf at my local Barnes and Noble, without knowing anything else about the book or author, and I am glad I did. Brunt is an American, but currently lives in the UK. This book was nominated for a bunch of awards and lists in 2012. And she also got over 4,000 votes in the Goodreads Best Fiction Choice Awards, coming in right after Junot Diaz in that year-end round up.
Happy New Year! Thanks to all my readers, especially those of you who dove in and subscribed to my blog early on. I appreciate your interest and look forward to sharing reviews with you and hopefully hearing from you in 2013.
After all the best of book lists came out in December, I want to note three that stood out to me. The Seattle Times had an interesting list of 15 best fiction books, including a debut novel, Alif the Unseen, written by a woman, G. Willow Wilson, who has also written a few graphic novels. It is described as a thriller with a hacker main character. I have added it to my 2013 reading list.
Salon has a nice round up. They asked authors who published books in 2012 to list the book they loved most from the year. Not a lot of debut books on the list, but a list worth checking out.